By Casey Monteiro
Tanya Carvalho Fernandes was barely 16 years when she took over the running of the family farm – Edricia Farm – which was started by her parents, Edward and Patricia, in 1989 in Siolim. The farm had about a 100-odd cows.
For the young Tanya, there was no other choice but to take on the challenge, as she puts it, “It was the wisest thing to do because you can't put livestock on hold. They are animals, not machines.”
FROM DAIRY TO VEGGIES
Edricia Farm, named after combining both her parents’ names, initially started off as a dairy farm before transitioning into an organic vegetable farm with ample space for activities such as yoga and arts.
Tanya, the only child of her parents, bravely ran the dairy farm after the demise of her father in 1998.
She recalls, “We supplied milk to hotels, locals, stores, schools. After my father's demise – I was in the eleventh standard at the time – I took over the farm and ran it for another 20 years till about in 2019, when I took a call to get into organic vegetable farming.”
She went on to complete her college education, simultaneously looking after her farm.
Tanya says the decision to get into organic vegetable farming was arrived at after facing issues like the difficulty in sourcing food grain for the cattle.
The transition to a vegetable farm grew organically. “We had a lot of land after we didn't have any cows left. We had sufficient water, fertile soil and the demand for organic vegetables was high,” says Tanya.
CATCH 'EM YOUNG
Besides growing vegetable patches on the farm, Tanya teaches organic farming to children.
“I am a practical person and prefer teaching on the farm. I love teaching young minds to eat what they grow and teach them to learn to cultivate vegetables on their own. Once you have an interest and dedication in this, growing vegetables is not that tough and it’s so amazing to be able to eat what one grows,” says she.
“Kids find it so exciting and this is what I aim to teach on my farm. They love that they can harvest vegetables and eat them directly as their grown without the use of any chemicals or artificial means. It’s such a joy for them and myself, too,” says Tanya.
“If you observe your food plate, you will realise that compared to dairy like say a cattle farm or a poultry farm or even a paddy field for rice cultivation – or any grains and pulses cultivation – organically grown vegetables are far easier to grow. You don't require much space. It’s something you can even teach to a three-year old,” says Tanya.
Growing vegetables does have some risks like unpredictable weather conditions and pests etc destroying the cultivations – but nothing that is going to create a total loss as there are various methods of planting like inter-cropping, cultivating smaller patches during bad weather conditions and using natural measures for pest control, like neem oil and sprinkling ash over the crops to protect them.
Tanya, today, is happy with how her farm has shaped up to what it is now.
Edricia Farm opened up their space for educational activities during the last few years where they invite traditional and performing artists and artisans to the farm to teach.
“This is a special feature of the farm. We call this part of the farm, where such activities are held, as ‘The Space’. Here, we give traditional artisans a platform,” says Tanya. “Some of them are unheard of, whose products are sold at a low price. We encourage more instructors to come; even if they have no experience, they can have a free demo class at my farm and see how the response is.”
For these activities, such as the workshops and classes, the farm attracts a mix of clients comprising locals and tourists.
“I appreciate people who come from far to learn, some as far as South Goa, who don't have the option of such learning near them, and who want their children to take advantage of such activities. It shows they are committed to learning when they show up for all the classes.”
Currently, the farm holds yoga, art classes, classes where you learn traditional Goan skills like mat-weaving (called mollam) and broom making.
“You should understand that some of these artisans are the last generation practicing it. I feel that at least the young generation should be aware of these arts and trades, and hence, this opportunity in the form of classes to learn them,” says Tanya.
For those wishing to get into farming, Tanya advises a back-up plan always.
“I grow and sell ornamental and vegetable plants, fruit-bearing and useful plants. It's a more viable and sure business which is not affected by the outcome or factors beyond our control. This supports my organic farming which is done on a much smaller level,” she explains.
“If you are doing organic farming or any kind of farming, like livestock, always have a back-up plan. Farming can be labour-intensive involve huge investments. I have learnt this from my own experiences and mistakes, and after interacting with other farmers,” she adds.
For more details about the activities at Edricia Farm, contact +91 98224 85296